Can You Predict the Future of Photography?

Some accepted truths about photography have been proven wrong over the years. Just as beliefs in seemingly unassailable attitudes have been eroded by time, so will the things we think are right now. Are my predictions for the future uncomfortable or will you accept the changes?

Reading a 1987 book, A Field Guide to Photographing Birds in Britain and Western Europe by Dr Mike Hill and Gordon Langsbury, he said:

Modern SLR cameras come with a bewildering array of additional features, many of which are of little use in bird photography.

Although this may have been correct 35 years ago, it is now an outdated opinion. Improvements in exposure, autofocus and tracking, image stabilization and other technologies have revolutionized bird photography.

Take, for example, Bird AI Subject Detect available in the new OM-1 mirrorless camera. This has been widely hailed as a giant leap forward for bird photographers. There are also societal shifts that change the way we view different types of photography. In the early 1980s, I remember wildlife photography was considered quaint and sentimental. Although there was a sequel, an image of a bird or deer would be considered by many to be worthy of a greeting card, but not much more. Today, wildlife photography is closely tied to the conservation movement, and the skill required to capture a good bird image is widely appreciated.

Wedding photography hasn’t always been well respected either, as the following observation from Jacqueline Tobin’s Wedding Photography Unveiled shows:

Wedding photographers were considered the lowest in the industry.

Few people would have that opinion now, and wedding photography is a genre that is respected by most as one of the most difficult.

Of course, the marketing of camera manufacturers also has an impact on our opinions. Take, for example, the use of the term “full frame”. Originally it was used by filmmakers to describe the gate size of 35mm cameras, a size pioneered by Thomas Edison and William Dickson in 1892. Canon adopted the term to promote its 35mm digital sensor cameras. There is a certain snobbery with some full-frame photographers who despise smaller formats. However, How to make Good Pictures – The Kodak Manual for Amateur Photographers from 1948 says this:

So-called ‘miniature’ cameras are generally defined as cameras giving negatives of 2¼ x 2¼ or smaller… another popular miniature is the 35mm camera.

Full-frame cameras were once considered miniature!

When digital photography was in its infancy, no self-respecting photographer would have attempted to submit digital images to their editors. But it had started to happen in 2002, and by 2003, the sale of digital cameras was comparable to that of films. In 2020, Nikon killed off the F6, their last film camera, two years after Canon discontinued the EOS-1V. Ironically, there was a resurgence of interest in film photography around the same time. Consequently, sales of used film SLR cameras are booming.

It doesn’t seem so long ago that mobile phone cameras were considered laughable by “serious” photographers – whoever they are – but in 2013 their impact was widely attributed to the halving of the camera market. Interchangeable Lens (ILC), which has continued to fall ever since. The decline went from around 31 million units sold in 2012 to 5.2 million in 2020. Sales of fixed-lens cameras, mainly compact and bridge models, were nearly wiped out during the same period .

Seeing such significant changes in the past, one can only assume that the future will also bring changes to the world of photography. Of course, no one can accurately predict what the future may bring, but here are five predictions for the future.

Prediction 1: Micro Four Thirds will grow and prosper

As I mentioned before, I think the decline in ILC cameras isn’t just due to cellphones. I think this is also due to the greedy approach of major manufacturers and their flooding of the market with constant minor upgrades. Consumers realized that what they had was good enough and didn’t need to be upgraded. Why spend money on updating equipment when the differences are negligible and what you’ve done the job? However, this trend was recently bucked by OM Digital Solutions (OMDS), the newcomer to the world of photography with an ancient heritage: Olympus.OMDS introduced two high-end products that met with huge success. Both were massive steps forward from what had come before.

First came the M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm f/4.5 TC1.25X IS PRO lens. Although it is the most expensive lens marketed under the Olympus name and its launch took place at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many were short of money, demand for this goal took the company by surprise. They couldn’t keep up with production to fill all the orders. Olympus lenses have always been well respected, but the performance of this one exceeded anything that had come before.

Although it costs $7,499, far more than other OM system lenses, it’s almost a stop faster and costs $5,500 less than the Canon EF 800mm, which has the equivalent field of view when the factor Micro Four Thirds cropping is taken into account. The OM system lens also weighs less than half the weight of the Canon, has an additional aperture blade, can focus 4.6 times closer and has a built-in 1.25x teleconverter.

Then they released the OM-1 camera. This time, pre-orders exceeded the number of manufactures by two months. Why? This camera was a huge technological leap forward over its predecessors, and many features were not available on other systems. In addition, exceptional image quality has become available in this smaller and lighter body. Photographers also broke the megapixel myth, and the definition offered by the OM-1 was more than enough for most photographers.

The system’s lower cost, size and light weight, and advanced features like superior in-body image stabilization and compute modes for many photographers far outweighed any other differences. Regardless of the requirement to only develop products that would benefit Olympus’ medical division, we can be assured that they will continue to innovate, and OMDS’ fresh new approach will disrupt the market.

Second prediction: an increase in the acceptance of lifestyle documentary photography

Despite the shrinking camera market, the number of photographs taken is increasing year on year; 1.4 trillion was the last number I saw quoted. Around 90% of them were taken with smartphone cameras. What began as a genre dominated by vanity and narcissism evolved into young people recording their lives and the world around them in a documentary style. Much of this is still filmed using cell phones, but there is a move towards sleek cameras with small interchangeable lenses.

Prediction 3: growth in fine art photography

Many of my most popular articles are about art and aesthetics, and there’s clearly a growing interest in how photography sits alongside other art forms, even in areas where you wouldn’t expect not that there is a link.

Additionally, art schools and universities around the world offer photography-based degrees, many of which are in fine art photography. Graduates begin to enter society and influence the art world, and similarly, the art world will increasingly influence photography.

Prediction 4: Cameras will have SIM cards

Just as GPS, wireless and Bluetooth have been built into cameras and cameras into phones, it’s only a matter of time before CLIs start having mobile data connections so images can be uploaded directly to the cloud without the inconvenience of connecting to a smartphone first.

As camera processing power and memory become more powerful and technology continues to shrink, we can also envision all the apps we see on our smartphones being hosted on our cameras. Isaac Asimov predicted that humans will be more like robots and robots will be more like humans eventually they will meet in the middle so maybe we will see a similar evolution where phones and cameras evolve into each other others.

Prediction Five: Photographers Won’t Need Photoshop

As the belt tightens due to rising fuel and food prices, photographers will want to save money. Lightroom and Photoshop have ruled the roost for years. However, other products on the market provide just as good or even better results and cost less. Capture One, On1, and DxO deliver superior results and cost significantly less than a long-term subscription to Adobe Photographer’s Plan. They are, on the whole, much easier to use too.

Do you agree with me? I’m not sure I agree with myself, as historically a lot of my predictions have been wrong, even though I haven’t invested in Betamax or bought Zune. What predictions do you have for the future of photography?

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